Carpe Diem

Retro Medicine: Doctors Making House Calls 24/7

From today’s New York Times,

A new kind of medical practice is flourishing nationwide that offers to go to where the patients are — whether a home, an office or a hotel — to treat ailments as diverse as a sprained ankle or a bad case of bronchitis. Some services may even wheel in a mobile X-ray machine or an ultrasound machine, depending on the ailment, or perhaps pull out kits to test for strep throat or to draw blood. They may dole out medication on the spot or arrange for pharmacies to deliver prescriptions.

“When you call, you can speak to a doctor in five minutes, and that doctor can be there with you within the hour. Where else do you get that kind of delivery?” said Walter Krause, founder of Inn-House Doctor. The company says it has 40 physicians on call in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Philadelphia and Washington; some of the doctors are in private practice or work in hospitals, and they make house calls during their time off.

The convenience comes at a price. Appointment fees can range from $250 to $450, with additional tests and medication extra. And payment is due at the time of the appointment.

Another service for Manhattan only is Sickday Medical House Calls and one for Miami only My Home Doctor. About 10 years ago, I argued in this article Deregulate Health Care, Bring Back House Calls, that deregulating medicine and ending the artificial restrictions on the supply of physicians would restore competition to the point that we would see doctors making house calls again. Although not widespread yet, I think the new trend towards housecalls in major cities is a promising sign that market solutions for health care are being taken seriously, especially given other trends like the low-cost, consumer-friendly, market-driven, walk-in health care clinics in retail stores spreading across the country.

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Loonie-$ Parity: Good News, Bad News; U.S. Now a Giant Wal-Mart, Everyday Low Prices for Canadians

WALL STREET JOURNALWith the Canadian dollar surging against the U.S. greenback, Robert Katzman is dealing with situations they don’t teach in Economics 101.

The owner of five strip clubs in Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, says American dancers are heading to Canada to earn the strengthened Canadian currency, and Canadian customers are heading to Detroit because their dollars go further there. He’s fighting back by advertising more in the U.S. and offering free limo service to get Detroit men to visit his Windsor clubs.

The rise is a boon for Canadians looking to buy American real estate, stocks or just about anything for sale at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., which has seen a 15% uptick in the number of Canadian customers this year. But it isn’t good news for Canadian hotels or tourist destinations, or exporters of everything from beer and maple syrup to lumber and wheat.

The result has injected a touch of national giddiness into Canada’s traditional reserve as a slew of opportunities present themselves, from real-estate deals south of the border to substantial breaks on college tuition for parents sending their kids to school in the States.

UPDATE FROM NY TIMES: On either side of the border, a buck is now a buck, or as Canadians call it on their side, a loonie. Coupled with high prices and high taxes for many things in Canada, the strength of the Canadian dollar is driving Canadians into the United States to shop for shoes, school supplies, gasoline, used cars and second homes.

MP: Compared to January of 2002, when the exchange rate was 1.6143 Canadian dollars per USD, everything in the U.S. is now on sale at a 38% discount for Canadians. The U.S. economy is now like a giant Wal-Mart for Canadians, with “everyday low prices.”

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Twin Cities Hit ‘Critical Coolness,” #1 For Business

1. LOS ANGELES (MarketWatch) Minneapolis-St. Paul is where it’s at when it comes to business, much more so than any other of the nation’s major urban areas. The Twin Cities ranked at the top of a MarketWatch study on the nation’s best metro centers for business, winning by a wide margin. Minneapolis-St. Paul got 329 points, 38 points ahead of second-place Denver.

The Twin Cities region has a high concentration of massive and diverse Fortune 1000 and S&P 500 companies. It also has a significant number of Forbes 400 private companies. Further, Minneapolis-St. Paul has a healthy array of up-and-coming companies on the Russell 2000 index. And it has more small businesses per capita than just about any other city.

2. Wall Street Journal There are 19 Fortune 500 companies with headquarters in the Twin Cities, including Best Buy Co., 3M Co. and Supervalu Inc., which have been attracting young professionals looking to begin a career. Average salary last year was $44,980 in the Twin Cities, almost $5,000 more than the national average according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“For the past two decades, these economic prospects made the Cities one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the Midwest,” says University of Minnesota geography professor John Adams. Adding to the growing population is an influx of African and southeast-Asian immigrants.

Carpe Diem

Michigan 3 vs. Japanese 3

According to Edmunds, the average automotive manufacturer incentive in the U.S. was $2,362 per vehicle sold in August 2007, down $159, or 6.3%, from July 2007, and up $51, or 2.2%, from August 2006.

The average incentive for the “Michigan 3″ (Ford, GM, Chrysler) was $3,373, and the average for the “Japanese 3″ (Nissan, Honda, Toyota) was only $1,365. Add an additional $1,500 per vehicle in health care costs for the “Michigan 3″ compared to about $200 per vehicle for the “Japanese 3,” and it’s no surprise that GM lost $2 billion in 2006 and Ford lost $12 billion.
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GDP by State for 2006

According to a report released by the BEA for Gross Domestic Product by State in 2006:

1. The average economic growth for all states in 2006 was 3.4%.

2. Michigan was the only state with negative economic growth in 2006, -0.50%. It also has the highest unemployment rate in the country for August at 7.4%.

3. Idaho was the state with the highest rate of output growth, at 7.4%, followed by Utah (7.2%), Arizona (6.8%) and Oklahoma (6.7%), which are all right-to-work states.

Bottom Line: Michigan should maybe consider becoming a right-to-work state?

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More On Inflation Targeting

New Zealand, Australia, U.K., Sweden and Norway have all adopted inflation targets, which have apparently contributed to either currency stabilization (UK, Sweden and Norway) or currency appreciation (Australia and New Zealand). The U.S. stands alone in the chart above, as the one country with a depreciating currency over the last 6 years, and also the one country among the group without an inflation target.

And the currency appreciation in New Zealand and Australia appartently haven’t had any adverse effects, the unemployment rate in New Zealand is at a 20-year low, and the jobless rate in Australia is the lowest in 30 years, since the late 1970s.
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Monetary Crack and The Fix: Inflation Targeting

The two graphs above tell a very interesting story:

1. In 2000, the Fed Funds target rate was 6.5% and the money supply (M1) was $1.1 trillion (see top chart above, click to enlarge).

2. In response to the recession of 2001 and the subsequent “jobless recovery” in 2002 and 2003, the Fed lowered its target Fed Funds rate to 1% by mid-2003 using expansionary monetary policy that increased the money supply by 27%, to $1.375 trillion by 2004 (see top chart above). In dollar terms, that was an injection into the economy of $275 billion, or almost $1000 of additional M1 (“monetary crack,” see below) per person in the economy!

3. In the process of implementing expansionary monetary policy to lower the Fed Funds rate by 5.5% (from 6.5% to 1%) and expanding the money supply by 27%, the value of the U.S. Dollar (Trade Weighted Exchange Index: Major Currencies) has fallen by almost 31% since early 2002.

From Don Luskin, writing on the Fed’s recent rate cut to 4.75%:

1. The crisis in credit markets is a direct result of the unwinding of speculative excesses that were set in motion in the first instance by the Fed’s having kept interest rates so low for so long.

2. By lowering interest rates, the Fed effectively increases the quantity of money liquidity in the financial system, and risks increasing inflation as a result. The reactions to the Fed’s rate cut this week of surging gold and oil prices, and a dollar falling to all-time lows on forex markets, confirms that there are serious inflationary consequences in our future.

3. Inflation is monetary crack – it promotes short-term euphoria, but in the end leads to ruin. Any short run growth effect will be more than offset by the dislocations and arbitrary transfers of wealth created by higher inflation, and ultimately by ruinously high interest rates that the Fed will eventually have to enforce in order to rein in the inflation it has created.

MP: Solution for monetary crack? The U.S. should go “cold turkey” and adopt an offical “Inflation Target” for monetary policy, like Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, the U.K. and others (24 countries have inflation target). Notice that the currencies of countries listed above all have stable currencies that are at close to all-time highs, or at 10-20 year highs, against the falling dollar.

Carpe Diem

The Educational Octopus in Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP)President Hugo Chavez threatened on Monday to take over any private schools refusing to submit to the oversight of his socialist government, a move some Venezuelans fear will impose leftist ideology in the classroom.

All Venezuelan schools, both public and private, must submit to state inspectors enforcing the new educational system. Those that refuse will be closed and nationalized, Chavez said.

Education based on capitalist ideology has corrupted children’s values, he said. “We want to create our own ideology collectively — creative, diverse.”

A new curriculum will be phased in during this school year, and new textbooks are being developed to help educate “the new citizen,” added Chavez’s brother and education minister Adan Chavez in their televised ceremony on the first day of classes.

MP: Venezuela already ranks #135 out of #141 for Economic Freedom in 2007, according to the Cato Institute, are they trying to lower their ranking with educational “reforms”?

Related Quote: “Every politically controlled educational system will inculcate the doctrine of state supremacy sooner or later. . . . Once that doctrine has been accepted, it becomes an almost superhuman task to break the stranglehold of the political power over the life of the citizen. It has had his body, property and mind in its clutches from infancy. An octopus would sooner release its prey.”

–Isabel Paterson, The God of the Machine (1943)

(Thanks to Larry Reed.)